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BIG BREAKS FOR SMALL FRY

Think your company, with just 10 or 15 computers, is too small to qualify for volume discounts on software licenses? Think again. Big-name software publishers are so hungry for small-business customers they've begun offering multiple licensing deals and bulk-purchase discounts of up to 35%, even for low-volume purchasers. A multiple or ''open'' license means one disk can legally be downloaded onto many machines. Since last October, just 10 copies of Microsoft Office qualify for an ''open license program,'' or bulk discount, down from 25. Corel Corp. allows you to pay for five licenses and install the program on 10 computers, provided only five people use the software at any one time. You can also save on software upgrades by starting a bidding war between the Goliaths. Just like the phone companies, Lotus Development Corp. will discount its Smartsuite to lure you away from Microsoft Corp., which in turn will offer a competing discount on your upgrade to keep you. Buying through a reseller such as Egghead Inc. can shave off a few more dollars. Another good reason to think in terms of resellers: They can put together a multibrand package and keep track of your licenses--helpful if you're ever accused of illegal copying.

EDITED BY EDITH UPDIKE


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